God’s Power In Earthen Vessels

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 2 Cor. 4:7

I never appreciated how powerful this statement was until I understood how prone we as humans are to two things in particular:

  1. We are prone to sinning; and
  2. Taking credit for each and everything that we accomplish.

Actually, I never thought much about this scripture until I began noticing how truly weak I was. I could be up in the heavens one minute (holiness-wise); and the next I would fall so far and so hard I would need to be resuscitated, so to speak. And yet, still, whenever I scored a victory in the good fight of faith I found myself thinking, “Oh, how good I am!” or “How well I have done that!”

In fact, thinking that we are something is one of the greatest weaknesses we have. But the Bible states here exactly who or what we are: mere earthen vessels. What insight the Apostle Paul had into the wisdom of God!

Earthen vessels. Earthen vessels are things that are made of clay; and things that are made of clay are fragile and easily breakable. Now, if that doesn’t talk tons about our character! We are liable to sin at the drop of a heart, have you ever noticed that? We are so weak! And the Apostle Paul tells us this realization comes to us to the end that we might give “the excellency of the power” to God. When God gives you the grace to see things in the Spirit as Paul saw them here, you will be giving all the glory and honor and power to God with all your heart. You will be praising Him every minute of your life.

In a sense, “earthen vessels” points to the cross. It talks of our willingness to be broken and moulded, in order that we might be fit to carry God’s treasure in us. But this moulding is a work which can happen only when we have allowed our lives to be crucified. A soft and malleable spirit is what allows God to accomplish this work in us.

And let me tell you that, once you accept the fact that you are nothing but a mere “earthen vessel” to be broken, you have locked onto God’s perspective of things. From there onwards, any victory, any good thing that comes to you will be credited back to God, and this gives God the glory.

But notice also that this scripture mentions “the excellency of the power… of God”.

Anywhere you see the word “power” mentioned in the Bible in relation to us, beware. It references the cross, for the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that the preaching of the cross is the power of God to those who are called.

Actually, “the excellency of the power… of God” is the subject of the Bible. If there is atomic power then there is the power of God. And the power of God does things that no other power can. It changes us. It transforms us from being nothing to becoming God’s powerhouses. We declare and showcase the power of God in our lives. Sin – powerful sin – and all the works of Satan are broken and they lie powerless at our feet. One day, even death itself will be defeated in our lives. That is the power of God at work in us. And this transformation is the “treasure” that Paul is talking of. The “treasure” is our sinless life.

There is only one way to experience this power and hence have this treasure in you: nail your flesh to the cross. Give up who you are; give up your rights as you consider Christ’s example. You will never experience the power of God if you are holding onto your life.

But if you let go your life and allow God to deal with you as one deals with an earthen vessel, you will experience the power of God in your life and you will carry God’s hidden treasure in you.

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Having A Heavenly Vision

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Mat. 6:19-21

Is it not truly amazing that with so few words one would become the greatest investment advisor both in heaven and on the earth. But that was exactly what our Lord Jesus accomplished here. In just one sentence, the Lord provided the single most important piece of advice for anyone who wants to arrive at true riches. You will never, ever find any sounder investment advice than the words that Jesus spoke here.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Master of everything, even in bringing out in the briefest and clearest summary the most important and complex aspects of our lives!

The word that I love most in this scripture is “yourself”. That is a word we should meditate over and over. In other words, just as we love to gain in this world, we could equally gain in heaven! But is that truly possible? Yes; but to do that, I need to hate myself first.

Now, people who hate others are normally bitter at heart. But did you know you can hate with joy? But the only hating that you can do with joy is when you hate yourself for the sake of God’s Kingdom. That is a spiritual experience that can only come about when we have been born again by God’s Spirit.

Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

I can attest to the fact that the truly joyous moments that I have experienced in my life are when I found myself giving, not receiving. There is a certain joy attached to receiving, a gross and spiritually oppressive kind of satisfaction. But there is another kind of joy, a joy that is spiritually liberating, which we can only find when we give away our lives for the sake of the gospel.

Notice the scripture talks of not laying up “for yourselves treasures upon earth”.

What does that mean? Jesus could have been saying many things here, but here we will consider specifically money and material wealth. The Bible tells us not to lay up for ourselves these things upon the earth.

Now, if you love the world, you will bring up every argument to counter Jesus’ words. But if God has touched you and in your heart you love Him, you will rejoice at Jesus’ words.

I have heard people say, “Y’know, you don’t have to be stupid to be saved”. They say, “Don’t live as if you are not in this world!” They tell you things like how you ought to save money so you can build a house. They tell you that you shouldn’t live in a rented house all your life.

Well, if there was one person they should be telling this, it is our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus began His earthly life on the wrong foot right from birth. His mother even had no place to give birth to Jesus, and He had to be born in a manger. A manger! Try to imagine that.

You would think God would correct this anomaly and give the most powerful Man his due place on earth. But we read that even when Jesus was at the height of His ministry, He did not have a place to even lay His head! Our Lord lived a truly poor life.

And how about the worldly-eccentric man, John the Baptist? John might have appeared eccentric by his odd lifestyle, but I can assure you that apart from Jesus Christ, in his lifetime John was spiritually the sanest person alive. This man lived in the desert his entire life, and he fed on locusts and wild honey – but God was with him!

Let me tell you, you can live in a hole, literally, all your life, and enter heaven triumphantly. Do you want God to be with you? Just have a heavenly vision. Seeing into God’s Kingdom will make you the richest man spiritually because God will be with you.

Neither Jesus nor John the Baptist lived a materially expensive life to prove that God was with them. Nor did the apostles of Jesus Christ. But they saw with a deep clarity into God’s spiritual Kingdom.

There are also dangers associated with setting our hearts on the things of this world. Robbers could come in and take our property. I raise chickens at my home and someone came and suggested that I should buy a dog to protect my chickens. I told him no. I told him God is well able to protect my chickens. If He ever allows them to get stolen, He will do so for a reason. Another reason I will not be buying a dog, I told my friend,  is because I do not want my heart to be set on those chickens.

The reason Jesus, John and the early church did not lay up treasures here on earth was because they saw into God’s Kingdom, and what they saw there made them to despise the glitter of this world. The things we crow about, these people despised. Jesus even had one seamless shirt-cum-coat. You would need to know how people in his day dressed in order to appreciate how poor our Lord truly was! There are people who do not like the idea that Jesus be portrayed as a poor man. But Jesus was a poor man. You do not even need to guess it. The Bible itself states that Jesus was poor (2 Cor. 8:9).

Let me end by giving you some good investment advice. In fact, this is the best advice you will ever get, and especially if you have large sums of money. And I am giving it to you free of charge.

My advice is: If you have money, do not put it in the bank. Put it in the church. Put it into God’s work. This is where it will truly pay. If you can invest your money into the bank to put into God’s Kingdom, well and good. Only, do not invest it for yourself. The only place “yourself” is waiting to gain is in God’s spiritual Kingdom, not here on earth.

Give away your money and property to the poor. There are many poor people, and some are even our brothers and sisters in Christ. Do not lend, but give. The Bible says,

“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days” (Eccl. 11:1).

That speaks of a generous heart. One day, in heaven, you will reap a wonderful harvest.

Giving away our lives in this manner is one of the really big ways that we plan for heaven. Planning for heaven is the best investment plan. Plan for heaven, not earth. Invest in God’s spiritual Kingdom, not this earthly one.

Indeed the Apostle Paul urges us to handle this worldly life with the tips of your fingers. In 1 Timothy 6:8 he says:

“And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Tim. 6:8).

That’s truly incredible, coming from this great man of God. Do you think Paul did not know of other things? Do you think he did not know of chariots and horses? Do you think Paul was not aware of money, and of gold and silver? He knew, of course, but he wouldn’t mention them. He wanted to show us that when it comes to this world, we should only desire the bare necessities. Desiring anything beyond that can only be of the flesh!

This is hard for many believers to accept, but it is the truth. A rather hard truth, but the truth nonetheless. As believers we should be aware that the flesh is very much alive and that it will always picket against us taking the narrow way. But we have to, for the gospel’s sake.

What You See…

44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46

A brother and I were discussing this verse recently and he asked me whether I had ever seen a pearl. I told him no. He told me he had also never seen one.

To our amazement we found that neither of us had ever even heard of anyone who had seen a pearl, let alone own one.

From the scripture above, it appears that a pearl is something of incredibly great value. Jesus compared it with hidden treasure. He also said this pearl was something for which someone – in one instance an astute merchant man – was willing to go sell all that he had to come buy it.

You notice also that the men mentioned in these verses of scripture were seeking after something – something of value. And when they found it, they let go of everything they had, that they might gain this thing, which was the object of their heart’s desire.

I might never live to see a pearl in the natural. But I do know that I saw something the day I heard the gospel of the cross preached. There is no doubt about that. I found what my heart had been seeking for all my life long. In the revelation of the cross I found Truth.

When I heard the gospel of the cross, it shook me. I will be forever grateful to God for enabling me to see something of value in the cross. When I say “me” I mean my spirit, of course. Were I dependent on my mind, I would have run away from it, it shook me so bad. But I saw something. I can never explain what it was that made me to stay around after I had heard a gospel that brought the sword to my heart. But I am sure my spirit saw something, and that was why I stayed. And I am still right there.

One of Apostle Paul’s prayers for the churches was that their spiritual eyes might be opened. “What you see is what you get”, they say.

I once heard of an ‘apostle of money’. In other words, this ‘apostle’ sees money, and he preaches money. No doubt his followers also see money.

Today there are ‘apostles’ for every commodity, on earth and in heaven.

But the revelation of the cross causes you to focus on the all-important aspect of the gospel – the crucifixion of the flesh.

A lack of this revelation leads to a gratification of the flesh. There are many Christians today gratifying the flesh “in the Name of Jesus”.

The Apostle Paul knew where to find the life: it was in identifying his life with the sufferings and death of Christ. Have you ever wondered why Paul would want to “know” nothing among the Corinthians “save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”? (1 Cor. 2:2) There is much food for thought there.

Ever since my heart grasped the revelation of the cross, my focus has been drastically changed. I desire only one thing: to know Him and His sufferings and death that “if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). It is the life of Christ that I seek after. I am not perfect, which makes me wonder how long it took these gentlemen to “sell all they had”. Certainly not as long as I am taking; but I am assured in my heart that as long as my eyes stay focused on that pearl – the cross and the grace to be found therein – I will one day find myself in God’s perfect will.

[Below: God’s Kingdom is way deep down in a man’s heart]

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The Priorities Of Life – Part 2

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. 1 Jn. 2:15-17

My last deposition in this 2-part series deals with the born-again believer’s attitude towards materialism. Actually, that is a contradiction. Christianity and materialism do not go together. Let me put it as clearly as I can right up front: WE HAVE NOTHING TO LIVE FOR IN THIS WORLD.

Everything that is in this world has to do with the lust of the flesh. That is why the Word of God says that “the world passeth away, and the lust thereof”.

I believe it is an affront of the highest order for a portion of the church to believe that Jesus left His abode in heaven and came to endure all that He endured in this world so that we might live a comfortable material life here on earth as “King’s Kids”. It is like saying that He died so that we might keep up with the Joneses!

That is atrocious, to say the least. God has not called us to such a race. As far as I can see in the Bible, the only promise that God gives to His children concerning this material world is that He will meet our basic needs. God’s attitude with regard to our life here on earth is best captured in the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy: “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Tim. 6:8). I wonder how we can add anything to that.

But Christians today are not just adding to God’s Word; they are actually contesting scripture!

I recently overheard a preacher of a mega-church in our city say over the radio, “The life of Lazarus (the poor beggar who lived on the crumbs which fell from his rich neighbor’s table) is not a model of the life that we have been called to live as children of God. His life is a disgrace! It is a cursed life. We are blessed. We are supposed to live the high life!”

In fact, her sermon was all about Lazarus and she literally ripped him apart. My heart fainted as I thought of all those unfortunate, deprived Christians listening to her on their small FM radios. They must have been devastated.

There are many “spirits” at work today, and this preacher certainly was talking under the influence of one (or probably a ‘legion’) of them; but I happen to know she was not talking under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

No doubt when she talked about Lazarus’ life, this poor preacher was referring to his natural life. She utterly failed to see Lazarus’ rich spiritual life. (Of course, it is not written down but from Jesus’ words you can gather that Lazarus was a God-fearing man.) She just saw Lazarus the sore-infested beggar, and she despised him. She did not see the Lazarus who lived a life that pleased God in the Spirit.

And, by the way, who said that begging is a sin? I don’t see that in the Bible. I will tell you what sin is in this setting. Pride and arrogance are.

The ‘prosperity’ gospel has been planted into the church by the enemy and it has received a large following because it is a close companion to the flesh, which grabs at it the way a drowning man grasps at a piece of straw. Many people, for a lack of a revelation of the true gospel of Jesus Christ that says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mat. 16:24) rush into the arms of such preachers. They are unaware that there is the true gospel, the revelation of the cross in our lives where we can gladly crucify the flesh and all its worldly lusts.

I personally know of dear, beloved brethren whose hearts are, unfortunately, very much on money. They are set on “making money”. One brother called me and said, “I am in the U.S. to seek after the mighty dollar!” I loved his candour.

I love these brethren, and I am not judging them. But it is also true that, with the gospel, you cannot have your cake and eat it.

We are spiritual. Whatever our lot in life, we must single-mindedly seek after only one thing. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mat 6:21). Our hearts need to be where our treasure is, which is God’s spiritual Kingdom. We need to seek after spiritual things. Our lives need to be alive to the will of God.

Paul sums it up well in Colossians 3:1-4, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”

For this to happen, we need to hear the right gospel, the gospel of the revelation of the cross. We cannot just swallow anything and hope that we will become spiritual. Becoming a spiritual person requires the keenest attention to that narrow road that Jesus talked about; and when we hear the right gospel, that road becomes clearer and clearer in our hearts.

We are not called to seek after this earthly life. Far from it, the Bible says about this world and its lusts, “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof”.